A new study has found that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) travelers have an increased risk of illness during trips to industrialized countries, but not to developing or tropical regions.
The study appears in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.
"Inflammatory bowel disease patients are often advised to avoid travel, especially to the developing world. However, we found that the absolute risk of illness is small and most episodes were mild," said Shomron Ben-Horin, MD, of the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Israel and lead author of this study. "If an inflammatory bowel disease patient has been in remission for at least three months, I recommend they take their dream vacation."
IBD is a chronic and often debilitating intestinal disorder, which adversely affects quality of life, including concern over safety issues in relation to traveling abroad. In the absence of enough data on the risks of traveling among IBD patients, many physicians advise IBD patients against traveling, especially to developing regions of the world. Insurance companies are often reluctant to insure IBD travelers, a refusal that is hard to rebut in the absence of data.
Taken together, these restrictions on traveling severely impede the overall quality of life of IBD patients. Until now, it was unclear whether this significant toll was based on a genuine increase in health risk during traveling in IBD patients. Results from this study indicate a comparable safety of travelling in the tropics for IBD patients and healthy individuals. The results also suggest that traveling while in clinical remission of at least three months should be strongly advocated, as it significantly reduces the risk for illness during traveling. However, the investigators stress that travelers to developing and tropic regions of the world are still at risk of several vaccine-preventable infections and should always consult a travel clinic before the trip and get the appropriate vaccinations.